Earlier this year I bought five rolls of Kroger 200 color negative film, an expired Ferrania emulsion, from Photo Warehouse. Ferrania stopped making color film sometime between 2008 and 2010, so this film is no newer than that. I don’t know how it was stored, but I presume the whole lot Photo Warehouse had for sale was stored the same way.
I’ve shot four rolls of this stuff now in various cameras. I shot the first roll in a fixed-exposure camera and wasn’t wowed by the color shifts and grain. I shot the other rolls at EI 100, which helped a lot. Yet each roll came back looking different.
Lots of factors play in how images look. The light meters on my old film cameras might not be consistent with each other. The quality of the light varies from subject to subject. Different lenses impart different qualities. But I think the biggest factors are processing and scanning. I sent each of these three rolls to different labs.
Just for grins, I’ll show you a couple images from the first roll I shot. I think Roberts Camera developed and scanned the roll — I didn’t keep a record as I usually do, but the scan dimensions are the ones I get from Roberts. I shot the roll in my Reto Ultra Wide and Slim. The whole roll was underexposed. I remedied that as best I could in Photoshop, to find intrusive grain but reasonable color fidelity.
I shot the next and all subsequent rolls at EI 100. I sent the first of these to Old School Photo Lab. I wouldn’t normally send them a roll of expired film containing non-critical images, as OSPL is by far the most expensive consumer lab I know of. But I had a few critical rolls to send them, and I just dropped this roll into the envelope, too. I shot my Nikon F3 with the 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens on it. Here are a couple images. These look really good to me, with excellent color fidelity and smooth grain. The purple in the first image is just spot on.
I sent the next roll to Dwayne’s Photo. This time I shot my Nikon FA with a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor. The results were mixed. Images I made at a farmers market had good color fidelity and noticeable, but pleasing, grain. Images I made of old houses in Bloomington, Indiana, looked a little dingy and brown. I was able to remedy that in Photoshop to some extent.
Roberts Camera here in Indianapolis developed and scanned the fourth roll. Here I shot a Pentax Spotmatic SP II with a 50mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens. That lens’s wonderful qualities really shone through on these images, but these all had a brown caste that I had to remove in Photoshop. Colors looked more muted than in real life. Grain is managed and looks much like what I experienced in the images Dwayne’s processed.
To my eye, Old School Photo Lab wins. The images from that roll look like fresh film to me. But ay yi yi are they expensive, at almost $20 to develop and scan a roll of 35mm color negative film.
I’ll try to make it a point to send my one remaining roll of this film to Fulltone Photo, a lab I use a lot because they do good work for noticeably less than any of the other labs I use.
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